Lifelong Atheist Jennifer Fulwiler speaks candidly about her life of scientific materialism, and Christianity

I found this video so interesting, we’ll take a break from our series on suffering.

A Lifelong Atheist

Lifelong atheist Jennifer Fulwiler speaks candidly about growing up in an environment where scientific materialism and naturalism was her way of life. (For her nightly bedtime reading, her father read from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.)

Jennifer says she was raised on a diet of science, and reason, and evidence based rational thought. She says, “You believe what you can prove. I believe that I have hands because I can see them. I believe in a black hole even though I’ve never seen one but science can tell us about the way matter moves around it that we can observe. And so this very rational worldview always made sense to me on a fundamental level.

A Collection Of Chemical Reactions

“Before I got to the point that I could really start researching faith with an open mind, something had to happen. And for me that occurred after my first child was born. I looked down and thought, ‘What is this baby?’ And I thought, ‘Well, from a pure atheist materialist perspective, he is a collection of randomly evolved chemical reactions.’ And I realized if that’s true, [then] all the love that I feel for him, that it’s all nothing more than chemical reactions in our brains. And I looked down at him, and I realized: that’s not true. It’s not the truth. And I didn’t know where to go from there but that’s what prompted me to start researching topics of spirituality.

Anything Could Be True Except For Christianity

“I got my books about buddhism and you know, and about every religion except for Christianity, basically. I assumed anything could be true except for Christianity. And my husband, who considered himself a nonpracticing Christian, said, ‘You might want to start with the one major world religion whose founder claimed to be God. After all that’s a really easy claim to disprove if it’s not true. And I thought, ‘Well, that’s a fair point.’

Intellectually Rigorous Books

“I was such a through and through atheist that I have to admit I was ignorant of all these great Christian thinkers. What about Thomas Aquinas? What about Augustine? What about Descartes? I mean, all of these great thinkers throughout history were not only theists but Christians. And I was really surprised when I actually found these very intellectually rigorous books where people talked about their faith from a place of reason, and not a place of emotion. And when I looked at evidence like that, on the whole, I started to think something explosive, something world changing happened in first century Palestine.

There Was No Material Benefit For Anyone Who Joined This New Religion

“You have this guy named Jesus who comes from a lower class region, gains a bunch of lower class followers, and ends up being executed by the Romans. And yet in droves you see thousands and thousands of Jews giving up these traditions that they had held dear for thousands of years. And, the people who joined in on this new religion, there was no benefit for them. It was a persecuted religion. People who joined this religion, [it] didn’t tend to work out too well. They tended to lose social status and often face death.

Still Not Convinced

“But, I wasn’t yet convinced and ready to become a Christian. And so I started a blog: I just threw out every hard question I could think of. I just put it all out there on the blog. And as I would watch the atheists and the Christians go back and forth and debate, I realized, we atheists, we don’t have the lock on reason that I thought we did. But what I saw with the Christians was, they had that too, they had all the knowledge of science and the material world that we atheists did. But yet, they had the total picture of the human experience: of love, and triumph, and hope. And they could articulate that in a way that the atheists couldn’t.

A Prayer Uttered

“It wasn’t until after I had made the intellectual decision to become a Christian that I think I finally believed it in my heart. When I set my pride aside and said, ‘Okay, I feel like I’m talking to myself but Jesus, I want a relationship with you. I want to know you even though I don’t how to go about doing that.’

The Result

“This peace entered my life. This joy. The way my whole being was transformed there was just no question that, this is somebody real. I think that, not only am I more alive now that I’m a Christian but I’m so much more intellectually alive. Finally nothing is off limits. I can ask questions about science but I can also ask questions about the spiritual world. And I’m free to seek the truth.”

-Jennifer Fulwiler

Resources:

You hear more from Jennifer on her blog, Why I’m Catholic.

HT to my friends at Not Ashamed of the Gospel  and Yes He Is where I first found out about Jennifer’s story.

The Consequences Of Ignoring God: God’s Way, Your Way, And Your Crushed Spirit

depression Christian

Guilt, Fear, And A Crushed Spirit

Continuing our series on suffering, today we’ll look at how ignoring God can crush your spirit.

Proverbs 28:1 says,

The wicked flee when no one is pursuing, But the righteous are bold as a lion.

Why is that do you think? Why do the wicked flee when no one is pursuing?

The proverb is a reference to Leviticus chapter 26 where the Lord tells the Israelites what will happen when (when, not if) they don’t obey His commandments. He says: “…I will also bring weakness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies. And the sound of a driven leaf will chase them, and even when no one is pursuing they will flee as though from the sword, and they will fall. They will therefore stumble over each other as if running from the sword, although no one is pursuing…” (Leviticus 26:36-37)

What we see here is what happens when you live in a way God doesn’t want you to live. When you’re living in a way your Father in heaven doesn’t want you to, something happens inside you, something happens in your spirit. And your spirit can be crushed, because not only do you feel guilty about what you know you’re doing wrong, but you react to criticisms that point to wrong, even when it doesn’t apply to you. You generalize your guilt. That’s one of the things sin does to people.

When we do something we know is outside of God’s will, it chases us. Like Dickens’s Scrooge, or Shakespeare’s Macbeth the knowledge of our own sin can produce ghosts or shadows that haunt us, and we flee, even when no one is pursuing.

What Happened When Israel Ignored God

In Isaiah chapter 30 God tells the Israelites, “One thousand shall flee at the rebuke of one…” (Isaiah 30:17) And He gives the reason for it in verse 1 of the same chapter. In verse 1 He says, “Woe to the rebellious children who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit…”

You see, the nation of Israel was in a jam. The Assyrians were about to invade and these Assyrians, they had a terrifying reputation. So the leaders of Israel schemed, and plotted, and planned. And they came up with their own solution, they formed an alliance with Egypt. But they did it all apart from God. They didn’t include Him in the process. The whole problem with the hearts, minds, and souls of the Israelites, the reason they were wracked by guilt and fear, the reason one thousand fled at the rebuke of one, was because they didn’t seek God’s counsel. They ignored the One waiting to connect with them: their God.

What Happens When You Ignore God

And that’s how it is for you and for me. When the Assyrians in my life come against me, I want to know what to do and I want to know right now. I want to Google it. Or I want to pick up the phone and call someone experienced in warfare against the Assyrians. Or I want to do a SWAT analysis. And while there’s nothing wrong with using our brains to seek information, we’ll have problems if we don’t include God.

When we seek God’s counsel, in His word, in His house, and in prayer with Him, and then do what He says to do, we can live life with enthusiasm and exuberance. We can live life as bold as a lion. When we don’t seek His counsel, when we ignore Him and plot our own path, our spirit isn’t right. We’re influenced by guilt and fear. Even if we don’t express it on the surface, even if it’s at the unconscious level, deep in our hearts, we’re not whole, we’re not right in our spirit.

So read His scriptures. And go to His house and listen to Him there. And bring your problems, your Assyrians, to Him in prayer.

Then do what He says to do, so you can live life bold as a lion.

Even Better Than Seeking His Counsel

As great as seeking God’s counsel is, and as great as doing what He says to do is, God has something even better. And it’s necessary because no matter how hard you or I try, we’ll never follow Him perfectly. This better thing that God has for you and for me is His Son.

The moral failure that every one of us will experience (and if you don’t believe we all sin, just have a look at what Jesus said on the Sermon on the Mount) has been anticipated by our Father in heaven. The guilt and the fear we feel inside of us can be washed away by the blood of His Son. God says to you and to me, every sin we ever committed and every sin we’ll ever commit has already been paid for by God Himself in the form of His Son Jesus Christ.

God knows. He knows about what you did. And He knows about your guilt and fear, and the way your spirit pains because of it. And He doesn’t want you to live with your spirit in pain like that. He wants you to be free. So He gave up His Son to the Romans, more than 2,000 years ago. They scourged him, and beat him, and nailed him to the cross. They killed him. He was God’s sacrifice, for you, for every sin you’ve committed and every sin you’ll commit.

So accept His sacrifice. Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior. And be freed from the weight of your sin.

That’s what God wants for you.

God’s Provision For Forgiveness

To accept God’s sacrifice for your sins, simply say this prayer,

God I know I’m a sinner. I believe the death and resurrection of Your Son Jesus Christ provides for my forgiveness. Please let Jesus come into my life and into my heart, to be my only Lord and my Savior. Thank you for forgiving me, and for saving me. Amen.

The words aren’t magical, what’s important is you opened your heart to invite Jesus into your life. And that’s the beginning.

If you want to talk to someone about what you just prayed, or if you have questions, please email me at kurt@kurtbennettbooks.com .

References and Resources:

Tim Keller has an excellent teaching on what the Bible says about the causes of a crushed spirit. You can listen to it here: The Wounded Spirit (HT to my friend Ryan Sample, pastor of Lakeside Family Church, for recommending this teaching.)

Skip Heitzig, Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012

Jim Davis, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), Leafwood, 2014

Steve Mays, Overwhelmed by God, Regal Books, 2014

Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Volume 2, Nelson 2006

Image via Stefano Corso – Creative Commons

How A Lack Of Love Can Crush Your Spirit (And what that has to do with the San Francisco Giants’ run to the World Series)

love and depression

Jake Peavy with Bruce Bochy (Bochy is in the dugout) in San Diego

A Giant Difference

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down,

But a good word makes it glad. Proverbs 12:25

Continuing our series on suffering we see in this proverb another cause of a crushed spirit. What we see here is what relationships can do to us. A lack of relationship, a lack of a good word, a lack of love can crush us. But a good relationship, one with a good word, can send us soaring.

I read an article today about Jake Peavy, a pitcher for the World Series bound San Francisco Giants. You may have heard that he played for the Boston Red Sox this season up until July 26, when he was traded to the Giants. And here’s the weird thing: Peavy was Continue reading

One of the Strangest Questions Jesus Ever Asked

Why am I afraid

Why Are You Afraid?

“Why are you afraid?” he asked. This has to be one of the strangest questions Jesus ever asked his disciples. And this blog post explains why.

What Happened Leading Up To The Question

After a long day of teaching Jesus tells his disciples to jump into the boat and go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But as they make their way across, a storm comes up. Some of the disciples are experienced commercial fishermen, so they’re familiar with the Sea of Galilee and its associated weather. With that in mind it follows, this storm that comes up, it’s well beyond the norm for storms in that area. The winds are extreme to the point where waves are covering the boat. (Matthew 8:23-27) The storm is so intense that these experienced commercial fisherman are convinced they’re going to die. Meanwhile Jesus, likely exhausted from teaching and healing the pressing multitude, is in the back, asleep.

So they wake him up and they say, “…do you not care that we are perishing?”

And he asks them, “Why are you afraid?”

Strange question.

Why I Become Afraid

Why are you afraid? Under the circumstances it seems like a strange question to me. Under the current circumstances of the disciples, I have to confess, fear feels like a reasonable reaction to me. And maybe you’ve experienced that same feeling. I know I have. I’ve experienced that feeling like I was drowning in my problems. Overwhelmed by difficulties. The storm in my life was way beyond my own energy and ability to overcome. And it felt like God didn’t care. It felt like He was napping in the back of the boat.

Have you ever felt that way?

I have a friend who felt that way about his diseased body. I have another friend who felt that way about his unemployment. And another friend who felt that way about his lonely single lifestyle.

I think we have all felt that way. But I think Jesus would ask each of us the same question, “Why are you afraid?”

What He Said Next

Jesus didn’t stop after he asked, “Why are you afraid?” He asked a second question that provides insight into why he asked the first. His second question was this: Continue reading

Steve Mays’ Life Of Suffering (And how God healed him)

Steve Mays Life of Suffering

We’ve been exploring what the Bible has to say about suffering and right in the middle of this series of blog posts, God did something for Steve Mays, the pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay, that I just have to share.

An Improbable Life Of Suffering

Steve’s life was often heavy with suffering. He battled drug addiction as a teenager which led to a series of strange and destructive events while he was still living at home with his father and mother. One time when Steve’s parents came home, as they opened their front door, water gushed out. Steve turned their house into a swimming pool by stuffing towels under the exterior doors and filling the place up with water. They found him in the living room smoking a pencil. He was completely oblivious. Instead of acknowledging the damage he’d done, he talked to them about the show he was watching on TV–but the TV was turned off.

Another time Steve’s parents arrived home to find him fixing a meal for a friend who lived inside the clock hanging on the kitchen wall.

Another time he terrorized his parents by angrily pacing around the house while swinging a machete.

The bewildering thing about Steve’s behavior was that he was a normal kid until junior high school. His parents didn’t know it but during that time in junior high he was Continue reading

An Atheist and Richard Dawkins Fan Investigates Further

Engineer Nick Berryman was an atheist who found that Richard Dawkins’s book The God Delusion resonated with him. And then he investigated further.

Resources:
HT to NotAshamedOfTheGospel.com where I first saw this video.

How Can I Trust In God When I’m Seriously Sick Or Injured?

pain and suffering Christian

Oresto, 4, with his father in the special unit for pediatric surgery run by the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) outside Port-au-Prince’s general hospital. He had his hand amputated the night before.

What A Man Suffering From Disease Once Said

I wish I was never born.

I’ve lost all my strength, and my disease has reduced me to skin and bones. I’m estranged from my friends and relatives. My breath is offensive to my wife. Loathsome, that’s what I am. People find me loathsome.

My cries pour out like water. I shout for help, but there is no answer. God has uprooted my hope like a tree. He has kindled His anger against me and considered me as His enemy.

I wish He would just crush me. I wish He would cut me off from the land of the living. I wish I were dead. (Job paraphrased. See Job 3:11, Job chapter 19Job 3:24Job 6:8-9)

Illness And A Crushed Spirit

Before his illness Job was intimate with God and his life reflected that relationship. He was the kind of guy who smiled often. He had the kind of face that lit up a room. He was the kind of guy who loved to help the underdog: orphans, widows, the lame, the blind, and the poor. He liked to rescue the weak from wicked people who would take advantage of their weakness: the Bible says he “broke the jaws” of such wicked men. Job was blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. And people loved him for it. He was dynamic, he was charismatic, he was popular. And his words were wise, and beautiful, and encouraging: people waited for his words like people waited for the spring rain. He held the honor and respect of the people in his community. And he was rich. (Job 1:1-5, Job 29)

Then, along with other tragedies, his disease came. It was a disease that isolated him from his family and friends. It was a disease that caused him to become emaciated. It was a disease that covered him with painful boils from head to toe.

It was a disease that made him loathsome to the same people who used to love him.

And his countenance changed. This great man of God didn’t smile like he used to. His face didn’t shine like it used to. And his words changed. He said Continue reading

A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy And What Happened Next (And what causes a crushed spirit)

Depression Christian

A Mighty Expenditure Of Amazing Energy

Elijah was coming off three amazing and miraculous events in his life. With the help of God’s Holy Spirit Elijah just “won” a showdown with 450 prophets of Baal and 400 prophets of the Asherah. “…you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, He is God,” Elijah said to the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and to the crowd of Israelites assembled there near the sacrificial altar.

The other prophets did everything imaginable including cutting themselves with swords and lances until blood gushed from them. But it was all to no avail. There was no voice, no one answered, no one paid attention.

Then Elijah poured water onto his sacrifice, twice. Then he prayed for God to let it be known that He is God in Israel. Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and even the dust around it. And when they saw it all the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God; the Lord, He is God.” And after that the prophets of Baal and Asherah were slain.

Then Elijah prayed for rain, because there had been a great drought in Israel up until that time. He prayed with fervency and intensity. He prayed seven times. And the rain came.

Then the Bible says, “…the hand of the Lord was on Elijah, and he girded up his loins and outran Ahab to Jezreel.” And Ahab was in a chariot at the time.

Good things are happening to Elijah. God is doing amazing things through Elijah. Through him the Lord is turning the people away from false religions and turning their hearts back toward the true and living God. Through Elijah God is providing rain to a people plagued by drought. (1 Kings Chapter 18)

But look what happens next. Continue reading

Suffering (And How Paul Never Prayed For The Persecution To Go Away)

Pain Suffering Christian

It’s What’s Inside

San Francisco Giants Pitcher Dave Dravecky

Dave Dravecky pitched for the San Francisco Giants until a cancerous desmoid tumor in his pitching arm required surgery. They removed half of his deltoid muscle and froze his humerus bone to try to kill all the cancer cells. On August 10 in 1989, after a long and grueling period of rehab, he came back to the majors and pitched eight innings against the Cincinnati Reds. He pitched brilliantly and he won 4 to 3. After the game he told the media, “It’s a miracle.” But just five days later, in the sixth inning against Montreal, during his first pitch to Tim Raines, his humerus bone snapped in two. The sound of it was so loud it could be heard throughout the stadium.

The cancer was back. And he not only lost his career as a baseball player but he lost his arm. When he was interviewed about it he said this:

“Nobody ever promised that life is going to be fair. Everybody’s going to have adversity. The only way to handle it is to take our eyes off ourselves and put them on the Lord.”

After all that pain and toil and work and sweat and grief, after all that Dravecky failed. Yet look how he responded. How is that possible? How could anyone respond to that kind of adversity that way?

What’s Inside

The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14)

A wounded spirit, as I understand it in the Bible, occurs when a person’s passion for life is squashed (the English Standard Version actually uses the word crushed). A depressed person could be an example of this. A suicidal person would be at the extreme end of this spectrum. And here in Proverbs 18 we see one of many places in the Bible where God’s perspective on suffering is different than the typical understanding of most Americans and many others throughout the world. We think our happiness is mostly dependent on our circumstances. If I have the right job, if I have the right woman, if I get the promotion, if I’m healthy, if I can make enough money, then… I’ll be happy.

But God says, Continue reading

A Tale Of 2 Sufferings (How Joseph’s dad failed it, and how Joseph nailed it.)

pain suffering Christian

Alex at 7,500 ft. (2,285 m..) above sea level. (3,500 ft. above ground level)

A Tale Of Two Sufferings

I never saw this perspective before, but have you ever considered the difference between how Jacob handled his suffering, as compared to how his son Joseph handled what was arguably even worse suffering? I heard this last Sunday from a 20-something.

Joseph Betrayed

So Joseph’s seventeen, and he has it made. He’s his father’s favorite. He lives in a wealthy family. And he is given special revelation from God in the form of dreams, dreams of his brothers bowing down to him. But without warning, Continue reading